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Family conflict on 'how to be' around dying person.

(12 Posts)
losingmybelt Tue 17-Jun-14 21:14:30

Hi there!

I was wondering if somebody could give me some advice.

My grandfather has a life-limiting illness and was given roughly 2 years to live (cancer has spread to bones but not in soft tissues - yet). But that diagnosis was given at the begining of the first year after all the tests were done, so things could have advanced since then. (he hasn't had any more tests as far as I know - he has a hospice nurse visit once every two weeks)

He is now well into the second year of being diagnosed..

Okay, Something that seems to be causing a bit of a rift in the family is in how we are all reacting to and behaving around the ill member of my family.
My Grandmother (understandably) wants to talk about it all the time and seems to be all 'doom and gloom' around him - understandable.
But she can't or won't, seem to accept that we all have our OWN ways of dealing with it.
It's almost as if she WANTS us to be in floods of tears all the time. And if we're not - that's wrong.

I've tried to explain that people aren't being insensitive, its just that everybody is approaching it differently.
Some members are handling it by being 'upbea't around my grandfather, which he seems to like,
other members of the family are offering practical help, because that is their way of dealing with things.
Others visit a lot and spend ages talking to him about things they know interest him (my way of dealing with it).

But still my Grandmother seems to think we are 'avoiding the issue' because we are not 'talking about our feelings ' constantly.

I hope I'm not being insensitive by asking this, but how do the people that are actually 'doing' the business of dying want people to BE around them?
Do they want us to be positive and cheery around them, or would they prefer it if we were tearful all the time...... can a person be too cheerful or too teary - which can do more harm?

We just want what's best for him and for his last year to be as happy and contented as possible, and I can't see how that is possible if we are all 'doom and gloom' around him all the time - which is what I feel my gran wants us to be.

I know that people shouldn't bury their feelings, but at the same time, if you're not a talkative person and are not the type to wear your heart on your sleeve, then to pretend to be like that is surely as bad?

So - what's the best way to be, how can we help my Grandfather have a 'good' death? (if there is such a thing).

Flexibilityiskey Wed 18-Jun-14 20:53:00

Sorry, I have no experience of this, but it seems to me you are right. People should be themselves, as they normally would be. There is no right or wrong way to be as everyone is different. It must be hard for your grandmother though. I am not sure what the answer is. Hopefully someone with some experience will be along soon with some advice!

DoingItForMyself Wed 18-Jun-14 21:37:21

When my dad had only a couple of weeks to live my mum made a collage of family photos to put at the foot of his bed. His response "oh blimey that's a bit terminal isn't it?!" He objected to people wanting to visit him "one last time" who he hadn't seen for ages, he wanted his last days to be with his nearest and dearest as usual, not to have a influx of morbid visitors.

Two years is a long time to be negative about it and if your Gdad is in otherwise good spirits it's seems churlish for everyone to bring him down. I understand that your Gma will be feeling the impending loss more than anyone (even more than he is himself) so try to let her 'grieve' in advance if it helps her to accept it, but it sounds like you've explained your side well.

I'm so sorry that you and your family are going though this thanks

losingmybelt Thu 19-Jun-14 19:03:11

Thanks for the answers!

When I have chats with him, I leave plenty of openings to talk about what's happening to him and will sometimes even gently 'steer' the conversation in a certain 'direction' - just so that if he does want to talk about it , then I'm giving him the opportunity to talk, and for me to listen.
But, he will steer the conversation back into a safer direction - and I don't push any further.........
I've come to the conclusion that he doesn't want to talk about 'death' and is happy to talk about everyday things and just wants to live a 'normal' life without people pitying him.

I think we should all take the lead from him.

At the risk of sounding flippant, I get the impression my Grandmother, on the other hand, would be happier if we sat around in a somber mood, all linked hands and started singing Cym by Ar!
And then, we should all discuss our 'feelings'.

She can't understand why all the visitors have dropped right off. But I can't help feeling that she is, unwittingly, causing them to stay away.

What usually happens is, people go round there, every things nice and light to start with and then she starts asking how they 'feel' and how 'she feels' and starts in with the doom and gloom as soon as my Grandfather is out of earshot. (and also comments on my Grandfather's appearance every time he leaves the room).

I think the visitors then feel weighted down, so then leave it even longer before they visit again.

What's worrying still is that I've noticed that some closer family members have started to avoid them, as well as friends.... (not me), but others.

I'm wondering if it would be a good idea if she had some sort of counseling as she obviously has a lot to offload onto somebody, but maybe friends and family aren't the right ones.
Maybe talking to a 'stranger' (counselor) - somebody who is more removed from the situation would benefit her?
Do hospices hold counseling sessions for relatives?

She's not in the best of health and has minor mobility issues, so is a bit isolated - which could be causing a lot of it. I take her out and give her lifts, but she is never satisfied.

You would think that it would be the person who's doing the actual dying that would be the awkward/difficult one, but my Grandfather is a piece of cake and lovely to be around, its my Gran that is the hard work!!!!!

(my parents live abroad so aren't able to help, except from afar).

Optimist1 Thu 19-Jun-14 19:21:55

Your idea about a hospice counselling session sounds very appropriate - I'm not 100% sure, but feel that it would be something they can help with, given the hospice movement's attention to family as a whole.

I'm sorry to hear your grandmother has taken this stance, but your thoughts about people being themselves are entirely sound. Your grandfather probably welcomes your more normal, relaxed company as an antidote to the weeping and wailing! (Didn't mean that to sound too critical, but hope you know what I mean.)

PolyesterBride Thu 19-Jun-14 19:30:31

I am in a similar position to your grandad in that I have secondary cancer and it would do my head in for people to constantly weep and wail around me! I just want people to be normal - obviously not pretend I'm not ill but also don't constantly talk about my being ill. He is still here, living life, and presumably that's what he wants to do.

Not sure how to handle your gran though! I suppose let her talk if she needs to and if she tries to force you to, just say you do talk about it sometimes, but not all the time, because you want to enjoy your remaining time with him.

As for counselling, both my local hospice and the hospital where I get treatment offer counselling for relatives. I'm sure if there's a local cancer charity, she could get it there too.

Optimist1 Thu 19-Jun-14 20:17:30

So sorry to hear about your diagnosis, Polyester. It's good to hear your take on the OP's situation. (I have a friend in your situation and I try very hard not to think of her as "the cancer patient", but as "my friend". We do occasionally talk about her situation, but I can never tell whether my visit will be full of laughter or tears. Mostly it's a combination of the two.)

Hellenbach Thu 19-Jun-14 21:57:11

My Dad had lung cancer and I felt devastated and cried loads at home. But I read something on a website which said 'do not grieve for me while I am alive, wait until I am gone.'

I have always remembered that. My DH has cancer, has had it for 10 years, I have a little sob in private. It works for us.

losingmybelt Thu 19-Jun-14 22:10:27

Thank you again for your answers. I'm going to make some inquiries regards Hospice counseling for her.
(then it will be trying to get her to agree to it - she is VERY strong willed), but I will face that battle when/if I come to it.

It's made me realize that these things can really affect the carers badly (as well as the cancer sufferers) and they need a lot of support as well - maybe emotional support that the family can't always give.

It's a lot more complex than I realized.

Somebody also mentioned 'grieving before it's happened' (can't think what the proper term is) and I'm wondering if she's experiencing some of that.....

kerstina Fri 20-Jun-14 20:29:23

Yes I think it must be very hard for your gran, as hard as for your grandad actually. Seems like she is trying to make sense of her feelings and what is happening by talking to those closest to her. Its a shame your parents are abroad will they come and visit soon?
Yes grieving before it actually happens does make sense I believe I worried about something happened to my dad for so long that I was more prepared than I might otherwise have been. What I have learnt is everybody grieves differently. I think counselling would be good for your grandma if there is no one close who will have deeper conversations with her. Some people are good listeners others like to keep things light and cheery.

BrianTheMole Fri 20-Jun-14 20:32:51

Yes it will be very hard for your gran, and undoubtedly she is already going through the grieving process.

tunnocksteacake Fri 20-Jun-14 20:38:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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